“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23).
My first thought when I read the topic for this month’s posts was “why?” What is the significance of the word “fruit,” and why is it used to describe a life lived in the Spirit rather than another word such as benefits, outgrowth, effects, or any other alternative?
Upon pondering this question, I decided to look up the definition of the word “fruit” to better understand the word’s meaning–to meditate on its meaning and hopefully gain insight as to a possible reason for its use in this passage…
The Definition of “Fruit”
- an usually sweet food (such as a blueberry, orange, or apple) that grows on a tree or bush
- the part of a plant that has the seeds in it (such as the pod of a pea, a nut, a grain, or a berry)
- a result or reward that comes from some action or activity (Merriam-Webster.com)
As I mulled over the definition of “fruit,” it became clear that this word is a perfect description of a life lived in the Holy Spirit. To find out how, let’s explore each part of the word’s definition.
1. Sweet Food That Grows on a Tree or Bush
What a difference in the quality of life we find when we compare the fruit of the Spirit with the works of sin listed below!
|Works of Sin||Fruit of the Spirit|
|Fits of Anger||Gentleness|
|Rivalries, Dissensions, Divisions||Self-Control|
When sin is in control, there is no peace, harmony, or satisfaction–life is a constant struggle for happiness and fulfillment. Relationships are riddled with conflict. In contrast, a life controlled by God’s Spirit enjoys peace, love, unity–life has purpose and fulfillment. When we are controlled by the Spirit, relationships are so much better. James says it well:
Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace (James 3:13-18).
Living in God’s Spirit is not a Polly Ann-ish, rose-colored life; rather, it is a life full of hardships, sickness, and disappointments. However, when the Spirit of God is in us, we are never alone. The very essence of who He is lives in us and we are able to be at peace.
Many years ago I worked for a woman who suffered from manic-depression. In the morning, I was the best employee ever. In the afternoon, she would call me into her office, cuss me out and tell me what a failure I was. God gave me a love for her that was truly supernatural. He also gave me a song in my heart. As I sat in my cubicle, I sang about God’s goodness and grace and I prayed for my supervisor.
A life full of the Spirit is sweet!
Grows on a Tree or Bush:
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. –John 15:4-5:7-8
Fruit is a natural product of the vine. As we live in Christ, read His word, and soak in His presence, the fruit will automatically flow from our lives. Producing the fruit is not difficult or something we strive to do. It is natural.
Back to my supervisor…I found that when I spent time in devotions, reading the Bible, worshiping and praying, I was able to see my supervisor from God’s perspective–she was a person who needed God to heal some deep, deep hurts. When I did not spend time with God, it was easier to see her mistreatment of me, rather than her need.
Time in the Vine yields sweet fruit!
2. The Part of a Plant That Has the Seeds
If we look at the Fruit of the Spirit, each characteristic of the fruit has to do with how we treat one another–our relationships. Matthew, Mark and Luke record Jesus’ words, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Paul says the same thing in Romans and Galatians. James echoes it again in his letter.
Those who live according to their own desires are selfish, egotistical, manipulative, self-indulgent and are focused on their own satisfaction. These people leave a string of broken lives and relationships behind them wherever they go. Perhaps that is all they have known and have never been shown a better way. When Spirit-filled people of God live “out loud” by their works, actions, and talk–others are drawn to them, to their peace and joy. As people see our treatment of one another, the Holy Spirit quickens their hearts to that lifestyle. They hunger for what they see in our lives. As Matthew 5:16 says, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”
But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works. –James 2:18-22
Back to my supervisor…To my knowledge, she never came to know Christ as her Savior. I did have opportunities to tell my co-workers about God’s ability to help me love her and to be happy and persevere. Several of them told me they had never met a Christian who acted like I did–one who was so not like the world. I have failed miserably in other work situations to reflect God’s love, but with God’s grace, I got this one right. Seeds were planted.
So, how does a mid-western housewife spread the seed of the Gospel? How does a New York businessman spread the seed of the Gospel? How does a Los Angeles school teacher spread the seed of the Gospel? Simple. They live in the Vine and let His fruit shine from their lives in their treatment of every person they meet.
The Fruit of the Spirit carries the seed of the Gospel!
3. A Result or Reward That Comes from Some Action or Activity
Earlier, I mentioned spending time with God. Being plugged into the Vine automatically means we produce fruit. The word in this definition I like is “reward.” Some of the rewards we receive when we live in the Spirit include…
- Loving, forgiving relationships
- Joy and self-worth from giving and caring for others
- Benefits in health of body, mind and soul from practicing self-control
- Stability and security from manifesting faithfulness and perseverance
- People want to be with you and around you (friends)
Above all else, living in the Spirit is a supernatural life as Almighty God’s Spirit lives IN YOU and ME. He does the work in us because of His great love for us. We reap great rewards in this life and the next.
Living in the Spirit is rewarding!
- The Fruit of the Spirit produces sweet fruit in our lives as we stay plugged into the Tree of Life, the Vine of our Souls–Jesus.
- Demonstrating the Fruit of the Spirit sows seeds of God’s grace, love, and power into the hearts of those struggling with sin.
- Living in the Spirit brings great rewards to our lives and those we encounter.
There is no down side; it is win-win. A life of choosing to walk in the Spirit is an awesome way to live!